I'm a romantic. I believe women should be treated special, if you really love them. My ex always got a special treatment on Valentine's Day, and I thought I was being really smooth, buying a dozen roses and leaving one in a different location for Nia before she woke up: Her pillow, the shower, the kitchen, her car... I even dropped a few off at the reception at her Hospital, with the remaining ones to be found when she got home from her shift.
Instead, when she got home, I got "What the hell is this?"
"Uh, a Valentine? I thought it would be a nice..."
She interrupted, "When have we ever done anything for Valentine's? As long as I've known you, we agreed it was just a stupid day, all of a sudden you're all lovey dovey and it's creeping me out."
Swing and a miss.
"I had a... change of heart," I stammered.
"You've been having a lot of those lately," she said.
"I don't know what to say," I said. In reality, I was dying to tell her the truth, but given how far into the lie of Doug Green I've become, that might raise some really, really unpleasant questions.
She said, "I mean, it's just so out of character that I don't know how to take it. Some days it's like you've never even met me before, some days it's like you read me better than ever."
I try. You know, I like Nia a whole lot, and in my real life, I could have seen myself really falling for her, although she's different from all the women I've been with before. But I'm playing the game, trying to let her win as much as I can, because it isn't really my place to stir up a fuss with her. And I don't mind, so long as she's willing to put up with her now-clueless hubby. Since our schedules have actually not overlapped too much, it's worked really well so far.
And then she said this:
"Are you cheating?"
I just stared at her. I probably took way too long to answer, because I was trying to put the pieces together and see how that conclusion made sense. Maybe I avoid her. Maybe I seem uninterested in the relationship. Being "forgetful." All this stuff I can't hide about not being Doug.
"No," I said quietly, still trying to gather my thoughts.
"Really! Nia, I love you."
"How can I believe you?"
I told her every single thing I learned about her since I've been here. Her middle and maiden name. I told her she was 5'6, and "just the perfect weight." She grew up in Oakland and studied Nursing at UC San Francisco. She eats Honey Nut Cheerios every morning, but she'd eat French Toast every day if she could. Her favorite color is blue but her favorite dress is purple. She flosses. She secretly loves Sylvester Stallone movies, and she first met Doug Green because he was dating a girl she isn't friends with anymore.
She crinkled her nose in that cute way she does. "Because I stole you from her."
I told her, "You're worried, because I was stolen once, someone might again, but you're wrong."
I wrapped my arms around her and told her she didn't have worry anymore. She leaned in and kissed me.
"What did you say to me when I finally admitted I wanted to date you?"
I went a bit cold. "I don't know."
"Come on. That's an easy one. I had it engraved in my ring."
"I'm... drawing a blank."
She pulled her wedding band. Inside was engraved. "Right on."
She smiled. "You're the worst husband ever."
So I smoothed that one over. I wish this situation were as easy as just being able to look like Doug and act like myself, but it has actually required a great deal of effort to act in a way Nia accepts from Doug. Doug, if you're reading this, I'm trying, buddy. Keeping things stable for your return, I hope.